Last summer, I signed an option with PalmStar Productions for a screen adaptation of Doc and Epitaph. So much time had gone by with no news, I was starting to wonder if they’d dropped the project, but yesterday an announcement appeared in a number of outlets, so I am free to talk about it now.
I’ve learned a lot since 1996, when The Sparrow was first optioned by Antonio Bandera’s production company.
First lesson: don’t get excited. Many are optioned but few are produced. An option is an agreement that for a set period of time (usually one year, with an option to extend the agreement another year), someone has the right to put together the funding to produce an adaptation of material.
This is like renting a property for a while, without being obligated to buy it. Nobody else can rent it for the duration of the lease, but if it doesn’t work out, the renter can walk away. This is what happened when HBO passed on the idea of a series based on Doc, even though it was Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman who brought the project to them.
Second lesson: having a big name producer or major star “attached” to play a lead role is important but not sufficient. For The Sparrow, Antonio Banderas came first, and then Brad Pitt, and for this project, Jeremy Renner is “attached.”
That just means that IF the producer can get funding, and IF they can get an interesting screenplay written, and IF the star’s schedule permits, and IF everybody thinks this is a good enough idea to throw millions of dollars at it two or three years from now, then that actor might be the one to play a role.
I have to admit, I thought Mr. Renner would play Wyatt, but as of yesterday, I’ve learned he is being proposed to play Doc Holliday. I learned from the internet that Mr. Renner plays keyboards, so that’s cool. Maybe Doc will get to knock everybody’s socks off with the Emperor concerto, but that’s only my hope, not a prediction.
Generally casting comes a long time from now, but a star’s name helps get investors and other actors interested.
Third lesson: Nobody is going to ask me to write the screenplay. Hollywood is stuffed with screenwriters who live out in LA and know the business and understand the constraints and schedules and do this kind of thing for a living.
This option does include provisions for me to act as a consultant IF they have something they’d like to consult me about, but usually authors are just a pain in the ass.
“But my character would never do that!”
“But that’s not what really happened!”
“You can’t leave out THAT scene!”
Etc. Big whiny babies. Who needs ’em?
Fourth lesson: reread Lesson One, above. I am cautiously hopeful. That’s all. And before you ask, AMC owns the rights to The Sparrow, and I have no idea if they plan to do anything with the story. Nobody tells me nothin’.